• August 18, 2013
  • 13 minutes read

A night in the jungle

A night in the jungle

After the horrible experience I witnessed at Rabaa Massacre, my soul had been traumatized by the atrocities I’d seen. However, I could not prevent myself from participating in the Friday demonstrations in Cairo, feeling the importance of sending a message to the junta ruling Egypt that their bloody massacres will not prevent the Egyptian people from continuing their calls for freedom.

I decided to go to Ramses demonstration. The air was very tense and indeed I could not imagine the amount of anger the people were feeling after Wednesday massacre. I really felt the same spirit of January 25 Revolution. Everything was the same, the slogans, the diversity of the participants, the hopes of the people.

All this was fueled by the bitterness the people had from what they have seen. I will not go in much details but the usual scenario repeated again. The size of the demo starts to swell, a helicopter appears in the sky, the air gets tense, and all of a sudden, the sky starts to rain teargas and the sounds of live bullets and birdshot echo everywhere.

Once again the periphery of Ramses square turned into a small war zone with hundreds of protesters throwing stones and receiving the full force of police gunfire. I started to see the first injured protesters at about 2:30pm. Then the flow of injured started to go to Al-Fateh Mosque.

Being a physician, I felt the call of duty. So, I hurried to the mosque to help with first-aid for the wounded. This time, it was different from Rabaa where I worked in a field hospital then in a community hospital. Al-Fateh Mosque is a huge house of worship. But it does not have any medical facilities or supplies.

For some time, we stood helpless in front of the patients, especially since the injuries (as usual) were mostly fatal – with shots in the head, chest and abdomen. But after a short time, medical supplies started to flow into the mosque, which was turned into another field hospital.

Again I will not go into many details. Ramses was another massacre, with dozens of peaceful protesters killed and hundreds injured. The carpets of the mosque turned red with protesters’ blood and an adjacent hall became a make-shift morgue where the corpses were stored.

The majority of those present in the mosque/hospital were physicians, pharmacists and medical staff, as well as families and friends of the injured and killed, journalists and volunteers to organize the place. There were some members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. However, they were just a small fraction of demonstrators present in the mosque, mainly composed of Egyptians from the far Right to the far Left groups and movements attending the demo or hurried to the mosque after the barbaric assault by the security forces.

The same was true for the dead and the injured. This refutes the claims of the coup cabinet which said that the mosque had terrorists. No single piece of weaponry was present. No single person looked violent or criminal. All those in the mosque were victims targeted by the lethal fire of the police and army forces – joined by those who came to help.

At about 7:00pm, it was declared that the demo will be ended and everybody should go back home, but in groups, to avoid being targeted by the forces around the mosque. I decided to spend the night at my sister’s home. So, I left the mosque with a small group of three doctors who offered to give me a lift in their car which was parked in nearby Garden City neighborhood.

We got outside the mosque at about 7:20, and joined a group of 200-300 people who were also returning to their homes. (Had I waited for a few minutes more, I would have been held hostage in the mosque after it was surrounded with thugs, police and army tanks.)

We walked in the backstreets of Ramses, which were nearly empty with no police presence. We continued to walk for some time till we met a crossroad. There, nobody knew which way to go with regard to the security situation, especially with the start of the curfew. Some fellow doctors decided to take a certain direction. I joined them.

We walked in a certain street for some time. Then, we got surprised by a strange scene: a line of thugs along with a police officer blocking the street. Once they saw us they all shouted and one of the thugs along with the police officers directed machine guns towards us shouting to us to return back otherwise they would open fire.

We all returned and started to walk to the opposite direction. While walking, a glass was thrown on us to hit the doctor beside me in his ankle, with shards hitting me. We started to walk much quicker and the thugs started to follow us screaming and pouring abuse at us.

We began to run to be surprised with the army blocking the cross road and preventing us from passing. The thugs along with the police caught us and ordered all of us to lie down on the ground with our faces downward. They violently snatched my back bag opening it and cursing everybody and took our wallets.

I can never mention the insults they poured at us, not just because of language capabilities but because I could not imagine these words could be told by normal humans. After sometime, they ordered us to stand up and a thug caught me with the injured doctor from our collars and dragged us towards the groups of thugs standing in a line.

While walking, a group of his mates kept encircling us (threateningly) with motorcycles. I was lost deep in my own thoughts that I don’t really remember what they were saying. I was thinking about two things, if this coup succeeds, will Egypt be like this, a dark street ruled by a police officer with thugs around him? The second thing was about my mother, what she will think and how she will find me.

We finally reached the line of thugs to find two other officers awaiting us. I was surprised by the harmony between the officers and this mob of thugs. The officers knew them by name. They kept shouting about us telling the officers to drag us to Abdeen police station. But the officers refused and took us to a side street.

One of them held my neck in a strangle-hold and pushed me forward. While I walked with them without resistance, one of those demonstrators who accompanied us tried to push one of the thugs leading him. I cannot describe what happened to him, but the last thing I saw was one of the officers hitting him with the butt of his machine gun.

I was hit on my head by one of the officers before he let me go telling me to run off. I got my bag and went to the end of the street not knowing where to go. The streets were dirty, dark and empty. I walked till I was shocked to see what they call a popular committee. They started to approach me and I realized they were the unemployed youth of that poor neighborhood.

I did not know what to do, but thanks to the Almighty an old man walked towards me and caught my hand and told me to follow him. They surrounded us and asked to investigate me, but he kept pushing them away till we reached a small kiosk. He made me sit on a small chair, but the guys surrounded me there and a man kept yelling that we are destroying the country and Israel and America are guiding us and we are not Muslims and we don’t even pray… and all that nonsense Egyptian media broadcasts persistently.

I stayed silent while that kind man kept pushing them away. He then took me to a small mosque to pray and told me that I cannot leave this area tonight, otherwise I may find troubles everywhere with such popular committees. He offered me a place to hide along with another man for the night.

I had no choice but to agree. So, he took us to a nearby bakery where we sat on the ground. It was really hot but this was not the troublesome point. We were afraid that those gang guys would follow us and do anything with us.

Again thanks God, another man came along and told us to go outside and sit down in the open air. A few minutes later, we were sitting with two men and an old lady with some children. The old lady kept saying that what happened to us is inhuman and immoral and the two men were calming her down.

Once they knew we had been at Ramses and that I had been volunteering at the field hospital, they started to thank us and showed solidarity. One of them showed me his hand saying that he was injured by birdshot from the police while they were trying to break the siege around Rabaa sit-in to save the people from the ongoing massacre.

Finally, I started to relax. Later, they brought us food and drinks and told us that we will spend the night at their home. They were so generous and kind. We slept in their home till the morning. Then, I woke up and left. One of them accompanied me till I took a taxi.

It was a very horrible night in which I saw two sides of Egypt. A dark side of the police, army and thugs, who kept firing all day on protesters (even the army used helicopters to attack them), and in the night kept chasing people in streets attacking and killing on identity and suspicion. I also saw a bright side, of young people standing firmly for the cause of freedom and against tyranny even if this cost them their lives, and normal people who answered the call of humanity protecting strangers in trouble and hosting them at their own homes.

Yes it was a terrible experience, but I believe that a noble cause of my life must be to empower the bright side of Egypt to defeat its dark one.